September/October 2006

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Contents

ASSEMBLY TESTIMONY BIBLE CLASS
by J. Riddle

THE GOSPEL OF THE GLORY OF CHRIST
by C. F. Hogg

THINK ON THESE THINGS
by D. S. Parrack

THE INCOMPARABLE, IMMUTABLE AND IMPECCABLE PRIESTHOOD OF CHRIST
by J. B. Currie

THE HIGH PRIEST'S GARMENTS OF GLORY AND BEAUTY
by W. W. Fereday

THE HOLY SPIRIT AND THE BELIEVER
by J. E. Todd

PSALM 32
by C. Jones

THE ASCENSION OF JESUS CHRIST
by W. A. Boyd

GOOD TIDINGS FROM HEAVEN

QUOTES


Assembly Testimony Bible Class

by J. Riddle (Cheshunt)

DEUTERONOMY

23) "LEST THE AVENGER OF BLOOD … SLAY HIM"

Read Chapter 19.1-13

This chapter deals particularly with relationships amongst God's people. The words "neighbour" and "brother" appear in the passage. The chapter can be divided as follows:

  1. Fleeing for refuge, v1-13. The words "flee" and "fleeing" occur in v3,4,5,11. Note the words "his neighbour" in v4,11.
  2. Removing a landmark, v14. Note that it is "thy neighbour's landmark."
  3. Testifying against others, v15-21. Note the words "testify" in v16 and "his brother" in v18,19.
1) FLEEING FOR REFUGE, v1-13

The New Testament clearly alludes to the "cities of refuge": "we … have a strong consolation (encouragement), who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us," Heb.6.18. We should notice the following:

a) They were planned beforehand, v1-2

This is the fourth of four passages dealing with the subject during the lifetime of Moses. See Ex.21.12-14; Num.35.6,9-34; Deut.4.41-43 (dealing with cities east of Jordan). In Deut.19, Moses confirms the necessity to allocate three cities in Canaan west of Jordan, once the land had been conquered. The final details, including the names of all six cities, are given in Josh.20. Their names are all most significant. Time spent investigating their meanings will be amply rewarded.

We should notice that these cities were not provided at the request of Moses. God took the initiative. This reminds us that the Gospel message is divinely-provided: "But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by revelation of Jesus Christ," Gal.1.11-12. We also learn that God did not wait until an Israelite had unwittingly slain one of his fellow-countrymen before making provision for his deliverance. The "cities of refuge" were planned in advance. There can be nothing further in advance than God's provision for our salvation. We have been redeemed with "the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world." 1Pet.1.19-20. He was "delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God." Acts 2.23.

b) They were plainly marked, v3

Thou shalt prepare thee a way, and divide the coasts of thy land, which the Lord thy God giveth thee to inherit, into three parts, that every slayer may flee thither." According to F. B. Meyer, "The roads were kept in good repair; clearly written directions at the crossways indicated the route; and, according to Jewish tradition, runners, learned in the law, were stationed at various stages to direct and help the fugitive." A. W. Pink also refers to Jewish tradition: "Jewish writers say that it was a law in Israel that one day in every year there were persons sent to repair the roads leading to them, to remove all stumbling stones which might by time have fallen in the way, and to see also that signposts which were set up at every corner leading to the city were carefully preserved, and that the name Miklac (‘refuge’) was legible upon them."

Whilst we may not be in a position to personally verify this information, there is certainly no doubt about the way of salvation. It is perfectly clear. The Lord Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father but by Me," Jn.14.6; "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved," Acts 4.12. It seems likely that the "cities of refuge" were clearly visible to the fugitive. The three cities on the west of Jordan were all situated on mountains, Josh.20.7, and the names of two out of the three on the east of Jordan suggest that they too may have been situated on rising ground. In this connection, we should notice that the cities of refuge were within easy reach. They were to be located "in the midst of the land." They were not located "in remote corners which would be difficult to approach" (A. W. Pink). Reference to the map will show that the cities were situated in the north, centre and south of the land on both sides of the Jordan.

The accessibility of the "cities of refuge" in this way emphasises the availability of salvation. We can do no better than to quote Rom.10.6-8: "But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above). Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead). But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thine heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach." The "cities of refuge" were there when needed, and salvation is available to the man or woman who becomes aware of his or her need for salvation. The Philippian jailor is a case in point: "Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling before Paul and Silas, and brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" He did not have to go and search for salvation. He did not have to go and work for salvation. Salvation was near: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house," Acts 16.29-31.

A "city of refuge" was within easy reach, not only of every Israelite, but of "the stranger … and the sojourner … that every one that killeth any person unawares may flee thither," Num.35.15. This reminds us of the universal scope of salvation: "The Scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him," Rom.10.11-12; "The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon Him," Ps.145.18.

c) They provided shelter, v4-10

The "cities of refuge" provided shelter for people guilty of manslaughter. They did not provide for murderers. "Appoint you out cities of refuge … that the slayer that killeth any person unawares and unwittingly may flee thither: and they shall be your refuge from the avenger of blood … And if the avenger of blood pursue after him, then they shall not deliver the slayer up into his hand; because he smote his neighbour unwittingly, and hated him not before time," Josh.20.2, 3-5. We have an example in our current passage: see v4-6. The "avenger of blood" was evidently a near-kinsman of the dead man. The word "avenger" translates the Hebrew word ‘goel’, which is rendered ‘kinsman’, particularly in the book of Ruth. The near-kinsman was held responsible for pursuing the guilty man and putting him to death.

In the New Testament, men and women in general are deemed guilty of manslaughter, and can therefore avail themselves of God's provision. "Ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; and killed the Prince of Life, whom God hath raised from the dead … And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers," Acts 3.17. When He was crucified, the Lord Jesus prayed, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do," Lk.23.34. Paul describes himself as "a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious" and adds, "but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief," 1Tim.1.12-14.

In these verses, Moses deals with two matters:

  1. the initial provision for manslayers, v4-7.
  2. the additional provision for manslayers, v8-10.

i) The initial provision for manslayers, v4-7. Notice that they were to be sought with urgency. "Thou shalt separate three cities for thee … that every slayer flee thither … the slayer, which shall flee thither, that he may live … he shall flee unto one of those cities, and live." It was a matter of life or death. Any delay could prove fatal. It would be the height of folly to know that refuge was available, and not use it. Awareness of the way of salvation guarantees nothing. Sinners must "flee from the wrath to come," Matt.3.7. We should be deeply thankful that we have "fled for refuge," Heb.6.18, to the Lord Jesus Christ.

It is worth pointing out that the cities of refuge could only be entered on a righteous basis. See Josh.20.4 and Num.35.12,24-25. It began with the man declaring "his cause in the ears of the elders of the city," but it wasn't left to him alone: the facts were investigated and verified independently. Our salvation does not rest on our testimony. It rests on the judgment of the highest court in the universe. "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us," Rom.8.33-34.

It is also worth pointing out that the cities were a refuge until final deliverance. See Josh.20.6. Whilst it is, of course, wonderfully true that our "great high priest," Heb.4.14, "continueth ever," Heb.7.24, we should notice it was the death of the high priest that finally delivered the manslayer from the "avenger of blood." His residence in the city was a mild form of imprisonment, and he could still lose his life if he left the security of the city. See Num.35.26-27. Unlike the manslayer, we enjoy "eternal salvation" from the very moment that we flee to Christ for refuge. See Heb.5.9. The ultimate deliverance of the manslayer following the death of the high priest, reminds us that our salvation lies in the death of Christ, rather than in the life of Christ.

ii) The additional provision for manslayers, v8-10. Three further sanctuaries were to be established in the event of the extension of Israel's territory to include the area lying between Hermon and Gilead, and the Euphrates. See Gen.15.18 and Ex.23.31. It is perhaps ‘hinted that this provision would never be carried into effect, as the Israelites would not fulfil the conditions, viz. to "keep all these commandments to do them … to love thy God, and to walk ever in His ways",’ (Jamieson Fausset and Brown). We must remember, however, that God will not revoke His word. Israel will ultimately possess every inch of the territory covenanted to Abraham. This apart, the lesson is clear. God does not overlook the needs of His people. He makes provision for them in every circumstance.

d) They precluded murderers, v11-13

There was no provision made for murderers. The original command has never been rescinded: "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made He man," Gen.9.6. This command was given to the human race in its entirety, long before the nation of Israel existed, and cannot be dismissed as a ‘Jewish’ law. It was, of course, incorporated in the commandments to Israel. See, for example, Num.35, where we learn that failure to execute murderers actually polluted the whole land. "For blood it defileth the land: and the land cannot be cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it. Defile not therefore the land which ye shall inhabit, wherein I dwell: for I the Lord dwell among the children of Israel," v30-34. We can only tremble at the degree of this kind of pollution in our own country. In this connection, a ruler or governor is "the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil," Rom.13.4. They are "sent … for the punishment of evildoers," 1Pet.2.14. We should notice that nothing is said about reforming criminals, putting them on probation, or letting them of with a warning. The law was not even intended to be a deterrent. Evildoers were to be punished by the judiciary. Sadly, this is not generally practised today.

This reminds us that willing and conscious rejections of Christ can only bring the most dire consequences: "For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries," Heb.10.26-27. The entire section, v26-31, should be read. Notice that Stephen described the Jewish leadership as "the betrayers and murderers" of "the Just One," Acts 7.52.

But every believer, having "fled for refuge," can say "Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the Most High, thy habitation, there shall no evil befall thee," Ps.91.9-10.

—to be continued (D.V.)  

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The Gospel of the Glory of Christ

(2Cor.4.4)*

(Address given by C. F. Hogg in U.S.A. in 1920's)

*Quotations throughout are from the Revised Version

PAPER 5

Glory is character made manifest. The glory of the Lord Jesus Christ is the expression of His character. We have looked at His eternal, preincarnate glories. We have dwelt for a little upon the glories of the days of His flesh, the glory of His kindness, the glory of His love, the glory He manifested while He endured the contradiction of sinners against himself. Let us now, for a little, think of the glory of His Cross, the glory of His intercession at the right hand of God, and the glory of His promised return.

The first Scripture is taken from Matt.3: "And in those days cometh John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, saying, Repent, ye; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. … Then went out unto him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan; and they were baptised of him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. … Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to the Jordan unto John, to be baptised of him. But John would have hindered Him, saying, I have need to be baptised of Thee, and comest Thou to me? But Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it now; for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffereth Him. And Jesus, when He was baptised, went up straightway from the water and lo, the heavens were opened unto Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon Him; and lo, a voice out of the heavens, saying, This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased," v1,2,5,6,13-17.

Now let us read John’s recital of his experience in connection with the baptism, of which Matthew has given us the history, 1.29-34.

"On the morrow he seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold, the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world! This is He of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is become before me; for He was before me. And I knew Him not; but that He should be made manifest to Israel, for this cause come I baptising with water. And John bare witness, saying, I have beheld the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven; and it abode upon Him. And I knew Him not; but He that sent me to baptise with water, He said unto me, Upon whomsover thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and abiding upon Him, the same is He that baptiseth with the Holy Spirit. And I have seen, and have borne witness, that this is the Son of God."

I wish to subject these two passages to a simple analysis in order that we may perceive the purpose of the double record.

Large numbers flocked to the preaching of John, to be baptised by him. Confession of sins was the condition, and the sole condition, on which baptism was administered. Among them one day came the Lord Jesus. "Jesus of Nazareth," as He was then known.

The Apostolic Model

Let me digress here to point out that such expressions as ‘Come to Jesus,’ "Believe in Jesus," are without Scriptural precedent, and that the very common phrases, "Jesus said," and "Jesus did," are also without apostolic authority. Consider the Bible phraseology: are you preaching the Gospel? Listen to the Apostle Paul, "Believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved," Acts 16.31. Are you quoting words He spoke? Then hear him again: "Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He Himself said, It is more blessed to give than to receive," 20.35. Are you relating what He did when He was here? Listen again to the same Apostle: "I received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, how that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread," 1Cor.11.23. And if you speak of the Cross, remember that when Christian people gather together on the first day of the week, it is in order that they may "proclaim the Lord’s death till He come," v26.

Or, if the Second Advent is the theme, it is for "the Parousia of the Lord we look," when "the Lord Himself shall descend from Heaven," and "we shall meet the Lord in the air," and henceforth "be for ever with the Lord," 1Thess.4.15-17. The same spirit of reverence marks the language of John, who closes the Revelation with "Come, Lord Jesus," and, "the grace of the Lord Jesus be with the saints," 22.20,21.

And let us never forget that He Himself said, "Ye call Me … Lord; and ye say well; for so I am," Jn.13.13. Happy the preacher who preaches Jesus — Saviour and Lord! Happy the sinner who in the same hour that he is brought to the feet of the Son of God, learns from the first that He is his Lord as well as his Saviour.

The Baptising of the Lord

Now to return from our digression: "Jesus of Nazareth" came to John the Baptist and asked to be baptised. When he recounts what happened thereupon, John goes back in his story to say that there was a hidden purpose in his mission; it was to provide the opportunity for the identification of the expected Messiah, and a background against which He might be manifested. A sign had been given; the Spirit of God would descend on the Man whom God had sent, Jn.1.29-34.

Now, it is quite plain that John the Baptist was personally acquainted with Jesus of Nazareth, though He did not know Him to be the Messiah. It was because of this personal knowledge of his kinsman and of His character, that when He came to desire baptism John immediately drew back. It is as though he had said, "I baptise these people on confession of their sins; they submit to my baptism to acknowledge that a just condemnation has been passed upon them. But we all know you to be a good man; why should you be baptised among men who are confessing their sins? Far more appropriate that you should baptise me than that I should baptise you."

—to be continued (D.V.)  

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Think on These Things (Phil. 4.8-9)

by D. S. Parrack (England)

PAPER 4 — "WHATSOEVER THINGS ARE PURE"

In the same way that "faith without works is dead," i.e. that faith can only be seen as existing by the practical effects it produces, see Jms.2.17-18, so purity too is only made meaningfully evident by the manner in which it reveals itself. That being so though, and remembering that Habakkuk can say of God. "Thou art of purer eyes to behold evil and canst not look on iniquity," Hab.1.12-13. He is by His very character the epitome of purity, how is so divine an intensity of pureness shown to us in a way which we can, if only to some small degree, appreciate and respond to?

As with all other attributes which Paul lists in this passage, when he refers to "whatsoever things are pure," he is directing our attention to things relating to the Lord Jesus. Whilst needing to be very careful as to how we choose our words, it must be said that nowhere in the N.T. do we find the word "pure" used to directly describe the Lord Jesus. The purity of His Person is shown rather by what He did, how His perfect and fully rounded character displayed itself. The Hebrews writer, e.g., speaks of Him as being "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners," Heb.7.28. Perhaps of those descriptions, the one we most easily associate with our idea of "purity" is "undefiled". The thought is not only of being totally unsullied but of unviability, of imperviousness to contamination. The Lord Jesus could say for instance, "The prince of this world cometh and hath nothing in Me," Jn.14.30. His character was so pure that Satan had no way of touching Him. Such purity was seen both in what He did and in what He refrained from doing. "He went about doing good," Acts 10.38, and Pilate was constrained to say three times "I find no fault in Him," Jn.18.38, 19.4-6; i.e. no evidence at all of wrong doing.

But if by God's grace, through the work of the Holy Spirit, we have been convinced in our souls of the total inalienable purity of the Lord Jesus, and three of the epistle writers put this in words which even our sometimes slowness of understanding would find difficult to misconstrue, "He — who knew no sin," 2Cor.5.21, "who did no sin," 1Pet.2.22, and "in Him is no sin," 1Jn.3.5. What should be our response as believers? What has God the right to expect of us? Well, as He says to His people, "Be ye holy for I am holy," 1Pet.1.16, so He looks for the outworking practically of what as far as He is concerned, has been accomplished once for all by the Lord Jesus on our behalf. He could say to Peter, "He that is washed," and that includes all who have been born again, "needeth not to wash save his feet but is clean every whit," Jn.13.10. Note that the word given here as "clean" is elsewhere translated as "pure" (see e.g. Matt. 5.8, 1Tim.1.5, Heb.10.22). But this absolute and total purity of believers in God's sight needs to be borne witness to by our practical living. That is where the need for feet washing comes in, a cleansing from the day-to-day defilements which affect everyone living in "this present evil world," Gal.1.4.

The epistle writers are quite explicit in detailing very practical matters which bear on the concept of purity, of being pure. Because Paul valued Timothy as a fellow worker, see Phil.2.19-22, and was aware that as a younger man he could become subject to particular pressures, he advises him how to conduct relationships with all age groups of believers amongst whom he was working, including treating "younger (women) as sisters with all purity," 1Tim.5.12. Peter, concentrating on married couples, including some where the wife was a believer but the husband not, urges such wives to live in a way which commends the gospel. The husbands may well be convinced by what they see rather than what they are told, when "they behold your chaste (pure) conversation (manner of life)", 1Pet.3.2. Paul looks at this scenario from a slightly different perspective "Young women," he says, need "to be taught to be sober — discreet — chaste (pure) — that the word of God be not blasphemed," Tit.2.4-5. In other words, a failure to act in such a fashion would render any profession of faith at least dubious in the eyes of their husbands or contemporaries.

Having considered how the different sexes should act in relation to one another in terms of practical purity, it must be realised that much wider behaviour patterns are also involved. James is very frank in pointing out whole areas in which self-originating problems can arise amongst believers, including internal divisions, self-seeking and jealousy, and he recognises all that as being an integral part of fallen human nature, see Jms.4.1-5. That was not meant though to be a counsel of despair. He goes on to show the remedy, starting with "He (i.e. God) giveth more grace," v6, and then emphasising the need for us to respond by answering the exhortation to "purify your hearts ye double-minded," v8. He has already told us what characterises double-mindedness. "A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways," see Jms.1.8, and a purified heart, one with single centred affection will be freed from such instability. But if we are to achieve any success in this very practical matter of purity, won't we require a great deal of help. Yes we will, God knows that and has made such necessary help available. Most especially, we are not left to our own ideas and perceptions as to what constitutes real purity. The Psalmist, addressing God, says "Thy word is very pure," Ps.119.140, and that "The commandment of the Lord is pure," Ps.19.8. That by itself though does not make us pure. The answer to the question "wherewithal shall a young man cleanse (make pure) his way?" is "By taking heed thereto according to Thy word," Ps.119.9. So it is when the Word of God is paid heed to that it will become effective as a purifying agent.

Perhaps though our own acknowledged lack of understanding, of limited perception, our inability to see things in the right context, prevent us from fully benefiting from such help. How can ordinary, sincere but unestablished believers cope in such a scenario? Well, Paul tells us something of the provision that God has made to meet this eventuality too, see Eph.4.11-13.

But such gifts, given remember to benefit the whole church, cannot be experienced in isolation. So Paul urges Timothy to be "an example of the believers" in practical living, including "in purity" as well as to "give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine" and to "neglect not the gift of God that is in thee," see 1Tim.4.12-16. The apostle had this same aim in his own activities among believers. He says "I am jealous over you with godly jealousy, "a real and deep concern, "for I have espoused you to one husband," he wanted their affections to be fully centred on that one Person, "that I may present you as a chaste (pure) virgin to Christ," 2Cor.11.1-2.

Later on, John introduces us to a further aid given us towards the effecting of practical purity in our Christian living. Having spoken of the position which we now enjoy as being "the sons of God." He goes on to show how they will be openly plain to see in a coming time. "When He (the Lord Jesus) shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is." That is a sure and certain promise for the future, but John looks too for practical effects here and now. "Every man that hath this hope in Him, purifieth himself even as He is pure," see 1Jn.3.1-3. That may, quite legitimately, be understood in more than one way, but for our purposes here we will concentrate on just one. Earlier in the letter we are encouraged, "Now little children, abide in Him, that when He appears we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming," 1Jn.2.28. What is being said is that a believing and welcoming consciousness of His return will cause us to live out our lives in a way in which we would be happy for Him to find us when He does return, and that constitutes practical purity.

To sum up then. In considering "whatsoever things are pure," if we are concerned with absolute and unsulliable purity, our minds and hearts must centre on the Lord Jesus Himself. Nothing or no-one can, or ever will be able to, challenge His total superiority in this arena. Having said that though, remember that "when He shall appear we shall be like Him," 1Jn.3.1-3. So, in a coming time that total purity of His will be exhibited in His people. Of that time Paul says "He shall come to be glorified in His saints and to be admired in all them that believe," 2Thes.1.10. That still leaves the question of here and now, the time before His return. As aids to our practical purity during this era, we have the Word of God as a cleansing agent and those given as gifts to the church who are to engage in "rightly dividing the Word of truth," 2Tim.2.15. All of that being so there remains the necessity of a response from us. Not just to read, hear or even to understand what is written, read or taught, but to respond with full-hearted, grateful and trusting obedience.

—to be continued (D.V.)  

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by James B. Currie (Japan)

PAPER 3

CHAPTER EIGHT: SUPERIOR COVENANT

A study of the covenants in Scripture yields much profit by way of spiritual enlightenment. Some teach that there are eight of these but our consideration will be of the two which are mentioned in this chapter set in contrast one to the other.

It is unfortunate that in the KJV what should be called a ‘covenant’ is sometimes translated as ‘testament’. This does not assist in clear thinking. What is meant by the word ‘covenant’ has nothing to do with a ‘last will and testament,’ not even in the words of 9.16, ‘where a testament is there must also be the death of a testator.’ W. E. Vine renders these words ‘For where a covenant is, a death is necessary to be brought about of the one covenanting’ and which, he rightly says, refer to the Lord Jesus (see ‘Dictionary of N.T. Words’ under ‘testator’). The ordinary word for covenant, meaning ‘a contract between equals’ is never used in relation to a Divine Covenant in the N.T. The word translated ‘testament’ or ‘covenant’ in the KJV signifies ‘a unilateral agreement the terms of which are dictated by God.’ It is to ‘Jesus, the mediator of an ever new covenant’ to whom we have been brought. This meaningful word ‘covenant’ appears seventeen times in the epistle and 5 times in chapter eight confirming it to be one the main themes of the letter.

The covenant spoken of here is said to be ‘a better covenant,’ v6: ‘the second covenant,’ v7 and ‘a new covenant,’ v8. In connection with these three depictions there are also explanatory details describing this covenant as to its essential superiority.

  1. Its Ministry Was Foreshadowed, v1-6.
  2. Its Establishment Was Foreordained, v7-9.
  3. Its Outcome Was Foretold, v10-13.

V1-6 — Its Ministry Was Foreshadowed:

The crowning point of all that has been set forth thus far is, we have such an High Priest who, being the Son of God, is ordained by a Divine oath, lives in perpetuity to save completely those who are His own and Who is now the ‘surety of a better covenant.’ This High Priest of royal descent has taken His seat permanently at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, 1.3; 10.12; 12.2. He is the ministering priest of the sanctuary, ‘the true tabernacle’ which the Lord pitched and not man. His priestly sphere is heavenly and as ‘the true sanctuary’ it is not set in opposition to that which is false but to that which was merely symbolic, temporary and an imperfect representation erected by Moses. There are over 60 chapters in our Bible dealing with the tabernacle indicating how valuable and important is the teaching to be found in that which Moses made ‘according to the pattern shown him in the mount.’ Moses was, in point of fact, shown an actual ‘pattern’ or ‘type’ of the things he was called upon to make, Num. 8.4. These earthly types are, in reality, called ‘figures’ or ‘counterparts’, that which corresponds to the heavenly things of the true tabernacle, 9.24. A ‘pattern’ or type is the term used of an impression left in wax after a seal or some other similar item is pressed into it.

The earthly high priest, and his Levitical fellows were ‘ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices’ and to do so continually. That is the thought in the word ‘offer’ (present tense). It was necessary that ‘this Man’ (the Lord Jesus) have somewhat also to offer but with His offering it is the idea of a once and for all sacrifice. The contrast between the Levitical sacrifices and the offering of the Lord Jesus is continually made throughout this section of Hebrews by the tenses of the verbs used. The Lord Jesus could not function as a Levitical priest here on earth since He belonged to the tribe of Judah. When He offered Himself, 9.14, the Lord performed a priestly act but not as a Levite. As a result of this sacrifice the Lord’s ministry in the heavenly sanctuary as a ‘priest after the order of Melchisidec’ became a reality. What had hitherto been foreshadowed is now an eternal certainty. Our Lord Jesus has become the ‘guarantor’, the covenanting priest of the better covenant. What a wonderful picture of the Lord in taking this great step ‘downward’ is seen in the action of Israel’s High Priest on the Day of Atonement. He divested himself of his robes of glory to replace them with the customary garments of an offering priest. The Lord Jesus, in true anti-typical fashion, veiled His glory with the garments of humanity in order to offer Himself as a sacrifice well pleasing to God.

V7-9 — Its Establishment Was Foreordained:

The necessity for a ‘better’ or ‘second’ covenant to be established was prophesied by Jeremiah. God’s words, recorded by the prophet, are here quoted to show the need for this. Reason demands that, if a second covenant must be established, then fault must have found in the first one. This is exactly what the author now states. God ‘finding fault with it He saith to them, "Behold the days come when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah." Again, it must be maintained that the fault did not lie in the covenant itself but, by its demands it was soon evident that ‘there is not a just man upon earth that doeth good and sinneth not.’ Eccl.7.20, thereby it became known ‘that a man is not justified by the works of the law,’ Gal.2.16. It is obvious from verse nine that the former covenant was not a bilateral agreement between God and His people. He took them by the hand and led them out of Egypt that they might continue in the covenant He gave them. This they did not do consequently God regarded them not or ‘turned away from them.’ The whole house of Israel is the one to whom these promises of a ‘new covenant’ have originally been given. The people of Israel as a nation today enjoy nothing of the covenant blessings. In this present age of grace, with the wall of partition broken down between Jew and Gentile, those blessings are anticipated by all who are linked to the Lord through His sacrificial death. The words of the Lord Jesus in Luke’s Gospel ‘this cup is the new covenant in my blood which is shed for you,’ 22.20, confirm this and it is with that in mind Paul writes ‘this cup of blessing which we bless is it not the fellowship of the blood of Christ,’ 1Cor.10.16. The Hebrew epistle also emphasizes that truth. The believer of this ‘day of salvation’ has been brought to, among other spiritual blessings, ‘Jesus the mediator (guarantor) of the new covenant and to the blood of sprinkling,’ 12.24. Blessings in keeping with all the better promises upon which the priesthood of Christ is founded and the conditions of the new covenant we enjoy spiritually because of His death. Moreover, this covenant was foreordained by the unalterable Word of God.

V10-13 — Its Outcome Was Foretold:

Everything pertaining to the ‘old Mosaic covenant’ pointed to the fact that a new and enduring, one superseding all others, would be effectuated by God. Not merely because it would be, as it were, eternally new but because the promises given in Eden, all those given to Abraham and to David, as well as those to the nation of Israel would all be brought to a full consummation by its introduction. The blessings of this covenant cannot be abrogated nor can the people, to whom the promises of the covenant accrue, be ever set aside. The reason being that we have a High Priest who will never be replaced and who, in His Person and work, reconciles what we are before God and what we are, in reality, here on earth. The conditions of this covenant will not change and its object will remain ever the same. V10 shows us why this is so. God will have for Himself a people with hearts capable of complete obedience to Himself and who will remain ever His people. Such will be the fulfilled conditions of this covenant that the need for Levitical type teaching ‘know the Lord’ will be gone for ever for, ‘from the little ones to the great ones, all will know Him.’ Just as we do today, by grace, the repented nation, reborn and restored will joy in the fact that the Lord has promised ‘their unrighteousness and their sins and their iniquities will I remember never ever again.’ It is because of the incomparable priesthood of Christ and His ‘more excellent ministry’ that such a covenant has been brought into effect.

The only place in Old Testament Scripture where the relationship between God and Israel is described as being new is in the passage referred to here, Jer.31.31-34. The Divine purpose in the ‘old covenant’ was thwarted by Israel’s failure to obey. It was God who, then, declared it antiquated. He does not intend to make use of it ever again. Once more we are made to realize that, at time of writing, the Aaronic system appears to have been still in existence. The actual meaning of the words used is ‘that which is becoming old is just about ready to vanish away.’ Since there was only one means of priestly intercession as far as the Jew was concerned and only one place, the temple in Jerusalem, where this ministry could be undertaken what a radical idea was being set before him in the contents of this letter. He is being told of an Eternal Priest unaffected by death; a sanctuary that is both spiritual and heavenly which can never see decay and a new covenant which replaces everything he holds sacred. The temptation to turn back to that which was familiar, especially in times of trouble, must have been all but irresistible. Next he will be taken a step further into that which he must find unimaginable. He will be told of a sanctuary which has not been built by human hands making the one where he now would, normally, worship obsolete and of a sacrifice that has replaced all others once and for all. Still, he is not to despair but just the very opposite. He will also be reminded that it was by faith all his respected heroes gave pleasure to God and he can, indeed is expected, to do the same. May the Lord impress upon us the fact that in Christ we, too, are ‘receiving a kingdom that cannot be moved’ so ‘that we can serve Him acceptably with reverence and godly fear,’ 12.28.

—to be continued (D.V.)  

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The High Priest's Garments of Glory and Beauty

by W. W. Fereday

PAPER 2 — THE EPHOD

The garments are not named in Ex.28.4 in the order in which they were put on. Compare Lev.8.7-9 for this order. The ephod is described first, as being the principal priestly vestment. David’s use of the ephod suggests that to him the ephod stood for all that the priesthood represented, 1Sam.23.6-9; 1Sam.31.7. The ephod resembled the veil of the sanctuary, but with important differences. There were cherubim in the veil but not in the ephod. The veil speaks of Christ’s holy humanity, Heb.10.20; the cherubim of government and judgment; we thus learn that these high functions are destined for the hands of the man Christ Jesus. But the cherubim would have been out of place in the ephod, every detail of which speaks of priestly grace. But gold — typical of what is divine, while unsuitable for the veil, necessarily comes into the ephod, for our great High Priest is "Jesus the Son of God," Heb.4.14.

"They shall make the ephod of gold, of blue, of purple, of scarlet, and fine twined linen, with cunning work." The gold speaks of the Divine in our adorable Lord, Ex.39.3 shows how it was used. They did beat the gold into thin plates and cut it into wires, to work it in the blue, and in the purple, etc. The gold being thus interwoven with the blue and other colours, none could have separated it without destroying the whole beautiful fabric. And who can separate the Human from the Divine in our Lord Jesus Christ? The union of the Human and the Divine in His Person is one of the holiest mysteries of our faith. In all His ways and words, as recorded in the Gospels, this marvellous union shines forth. For example, in Jn.4 we see Him as a tired and hungry Man on the one hand, and as the Discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart on the other. In Jn.11 we behold Him, first, as a Weeper (how intensely human), then as the Divine Quickener of the dead. In Matt.14 we observe His giving thanks in the most human manner in the presence of the multitude, and then wielding Divine power for the supply of their need. Again, we find Him in Mk.4 at one moment asleep in Human weariness, and the next moment with Divine authority bidding the winds and waves be still.

Blue is the heavenly colour. "The Second man is from heaven," 1Cor.15.47. "He that cometh from heaven is above all:" Jn.3.31. Unbelief in Israel stumbled at this. "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph: whose father and mother we know? How is it then that He saith, I came down from heaven?" Jn.6.42. His spotless humanity was seen in that He was indeed born of the virgin, and had no Human existence before, but He who thus condescended to become Human had subsisted from eternity in His own proper uncreated glory above.

Purple is the royal colour. The Son of God has kingly rights. He who is Priest in the heavenly sanctuary today will be King in Zion tomorrow. "The Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David; and He shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end." Lk.1.32,33. He inherits Joseph’s rights as his legal Heir, Matt.1.

Scarlet — a dye obtained from the coccus — speaks of both suffering and glory. So Peter refers to "the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow," 1Pet.1.11. Was there ever such a sufferer as the Son of God? Is there a being in the universe, therefore, so competent as He to take up all the burden of His people, and to enter into all the sorrows and trials which beset the path of faith? He learned obedience through suffering, and is able in consequence to succour those that are tried, Heb.5.8; 2.18. Scarlet speaks also of earthly glory, Rev.17.3,4; 2Sam.1.24. It is not enough that Christ should be glorified on high; God will see to it that He is also glorified below in His own time. When Satan offered Him "all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them;" Matt.4.8, He refused them, preferring to receive them from the hand of God when the due season arrives for Him to possess them, Rev.11.15.

The fine twined linen testifies to His perfect spotlessness. Though born of a human mother the reverse of immaculate, He inherited from her no moral taint; He was emphatically "that holy Thing", Lk.1.35. All His ways, too, were stainless. He only of all who have ever walked the earth could say to His critics: "Which of you convinceth Me of sin?" Jn.8.46.

In all this we have typified such a High Priest as Israel never knew. He is both Divine and Human, and He combines in His own Person the offices of priest and king. When one of Israel’s kings dared to exercise priestly functions he was smitten with leprosy for his presumption, 2Chron.26.17,18. But the Lord Jesus will, in the coming age, "be a priest upon His throne:" Zech.6.13. Melchizedek is needful as a supplement to Aaron in order to present this to us in the types of Scripture, Heb.7.

—to be continued (D.V.)  

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The Holy Spirit and the Believer

By J. E. Todd (England)

PAPER 2

3. RECEIVING THE HOLY SPIRIT

Because the gift of the Holy Spirit is the gift of God’s grace, that is it cannot be earned, merited or deserved, it can only be received. "That we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith," Gal.3.14. "Which (Gentiles) have received the Holy Ghost as well as we (Jews)," Acts 10.47.

But He, the Holy Spirit, must be truly received, that is with complete sincerity. "Repent, and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call," Acts 2.38-39.

The receiving begins with repentance, which is a change of attitude towards sin, our own personal sins. A realisation that sin is wrongdoing, "All wrongdoing is sin," 1Jn.5.17, RSV, and is an affront to God. Therefore there must be a wholehearted turning from sin in all its aspects. A turning from sin to the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins. The Holy Spirit can only be received into the life of a forgiven person, not a still guilty person, for such a one is still defiled in God’s sight.

Why then be baptised? The answer is in v.41. "Then they that gladly received His word were baptised." Receiving the word of the gospel is by faith, then that faith is outwardly declared by baptism. It is the faith that saves, then we have the clear conscience of a forgiven person. "How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God," Heb.9.14. "The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God)," 1Pet.3.21.

The one who receives the gift is the one who receives the blessings that the gift bestows. "As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God," 1Pet.4.10.

4. BORN AGAIN OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

"Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God," Jn.3.5. Nicodemus, a Pharisee and a ruler and a master (teacher) in Israel, did not understand this. "How can these things be?" v9, he said. The Lord upbraided him for his ignorance, v10. The Lord said that He was speaking of something that had already been revealed here on earth, and as an important teacher in Israel he, Nicodemus, should be conversant with this subject, v2. The Lord was referring to Ezek.36.24-27, which prophesies Israel’s return from their Babylonian captivity, and so would come the New Covenant, of which the prophets spoke throughout the Old Testament. This New Covenant would involve a personal cleansing from sin and an inward renewing of the life of the Holy Spirit; the cleansing water and the renewing Spirit. "Born of water and of the Spirit," Jn.3.5. The cleansing agent in reality was to be the blood of Christ … "the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin," 1Jn.1.7. The renewal of the heart is the new birth by the Holy Spirit.

A purpose of the gospel was to effect the New Birth. "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever … And this is the Word which by the gospel is preached unto you," 1Pet.1.23,25.

Birth is the beginning of new life. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit," Jn.3.6. Our natural birth gives us physical life which is mortal. Our spiritual rebirth gives us spiritual life which is eternal.

"According to His abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope … to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you," 1Pet.1.3-4. This is because the new life imparted by the Holy Spirit is divine, "Partakers of the divine nature," 2Pet.1.4. Everlasting is the quantity of the new life received at the new birth, it is eternal life. Its quality is divine, we have been born anew by the Holy Spirit of God. —to be continued (D.V.)  

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PSALM 32

By C. Jones (Wales)

Ps.32 was written by David, Rom.4.6-8, as he was led and inspired by the Holy Spirit, 2Tim.3.16. David had sinned. He had committed adultery with Bathsheba, and had murdered her husband, Uriah, by arranging his death, 2Sam.11.1-27. David did not immediately confess his sin, but when the prophet Nathan was directed by God to confront him with his sin, 2Sam.12.1-12, he repented and confessed saying, "I have sinned against the Lord," and Nathan said to David, "The Lord also hath put away thy sin …", 2Sam.12.13. David's sin was forgiven but his family and the nation would suffer as a consequence of his sin, 2Sam.12.10,14. We can receive forgiveness from God for our sins but this does not mean that there will be no consequences, in this life, for us and other people who are affected by our sins, "for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap," Gal.6.7.

Blessedness of confession and forgiveness

Just as the man in Psalm 1.1-3 is blessed and happy because he leads a life which is separated from the world and to God and His service, so the man in Ps.32 whose sin is forgiven is blessed and happy.

A sinner is saved by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, Eph.2.8,9. He, the sinless One, suffered, bled and died on the Cross as our substitute, bearing the guilt and penalty of our sin. The precious blood He shed cleanses believers from all sin, 1Jn.1.7. As believers we still commit sin, and until that sin has been forgiven our communion and fellowship with God, and our service for Him, are interrupted and spoiled. However, such is the eternal efficacy of the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ that, if we confess our sins to God He will forgive us, 1Jn.1.9; Prov.28.13.

God forgives our sin and blesses us by removing the sense of guilt and restoring us to fellowship with Himself. Once we have been saved we can never lose our salvation and our peace with God, Rom.5.1. If, however, we sin after we have been saved, then our sin comes between us and God and we lose the enjoyment of the peace of God, Phil.4.7, in which we delighted before we sinned. This peace can only be restored after the sin has been confessed to God.

David had been guilty of transgression, that is, he had rebelled and broken a limit set by God. David had committed sin: he had missed the mark and fallen short of God's holy standard, v1. He had been guilty of iniquity, that is, he had deliberately sinned and been involved in depraved behaviour. He had also been guilty of guile, that is, of deception, dishonesty, hypocrisy and treachery, v2.

David rejoiced in the fact that his transgression had been forgiven, his sin covered and that God would not impute iniquity to him. God graciously forgives our sin. He does not remember a believer's sins, Heb.8.12: they are cast behind His back, Isa.38.17; blotted out "as a cloud," Isa.44.22, and cast "into the depths of the sea," Mic.7.19. He does not impute, account or reckon iniquity to a believer but imputes "righteously without works," Rom.4.6.

To enjoy the blessedness of the forgiveness of sin, which David enjoyed, a believer who has sinned must be honest and without guile and must not attempt to put the sin out of his memory or attempt to rationalise, excuse or justify his sin. It must be confessed to God.

Conviction of sin

All of us have sinned, Rom.3.23, and before a sinner can receive forgiveness of sin he must first be convicted of sin. Conviction is the gracious work of the Holy Spirit. He convicts a sinner of sin and then leads him to repent and put his faith in the pre-eminent, all-sufficient Lord Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit will also convict a believer who has sinned. Sometimes a believer repents and confesses his sin as the Spirit speaks to him from the Word of God. Some believers have to be chastised by God before they repent and are brought back to enjoy fellowship with Him, Heb.12.11. A believer who has experienced God's chastening will say, as David said, "Thy hand was heavy upon me," v4.

Being under conviction of sin, feeling guilty and contrite, produces stress and worry and results in adverse mental and physical effects. This had been David's experience by day and by night, v3,4. Relief and assurance of forgiveness came after he had made a full and honest confession to God, speaking of "my sin … mine iniquity … my transgressions," v5. The blessed result of David's confession was that he could say, "thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin," v5. David once again enjoyed the peace of God and communion and fellowship with him.

Learning by David's experience

David wanted others to be instructed and to benefit by his experience of the mercy and grace of God. He wanted others, who were conscious of their sin, to pray and confess their sins to God while there was still time and opportunity, v6. In Is.55.6, people are enjoined to seek the Lord while He may be found." After receiving forgiveness, David found in God his refuge, his "hiding place," where he would be preserved from overwhelming trouble. He was back in fellowship with his God, resting in Him, and enjoying His peace, and he prayed and praised, v6,7.

Believers can learn from David's experience the psychological and physical consequences of unconfessed sin. They can also learn about the relief and blessedness which result from confession to God, who, in His love, mercy and grace, forgave David's sin. Only God can forgive sins, Mk.2.7, and in anticipation of the suffering, bleeding and death of the Lord Jesus Christ, 1Jn.1.7, He forgave David justly and righteously, Rom.3.26. The gracious results of repentance, forgiveness and restoration can be seen also in the experience of the apostle Peter after he had denied the Lord he loved, Lk.22.54-62; Jn.21.15-19.

Blessing of obedience

In v8-11, God spoke to David, and the instruction He gave was for the blessing of David and all who would read these words in the future, Rom.15.4. God promises to instruct, teach and guide. He speaks to those who have sinned against Him, have confessed their sins and been graciously forgiven and restored to the path of obedience. God says, "I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go," v8. A believer has the Word of God to teach and guide him. The Word of God is a "lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path," Ps.119.105. It shows a believer his spiritual position and condition and the way to go in life.

God says "I will guide thee with Mine eye," v8. If we respond to His guidance, as He watches over us and the Holy Spirit teaches us from His written word, then there will be no need for Him to use the "bit and bridle," v9, which are needed to control stubborn, disobedient animals. That is, God will not have to use chastisement to bring us to repentance, confession and obedience.

A believer needs to keep close to God through prayer, Spirit-guided meditation on His Word and obedience to the truths He reveals. Sin leads to sorrow, but a believer who "keeps short accounts with God," who frequently repents and confesses his sins, will be forgiven and enjoy the peace of God. He will live his life trusting in God and conscious that love, grace and mercy "compass him about," v10. Great peace and joy, which are independent of outside circumstances, are enjoyed by those who "Trust in Him at all times," Ps.62.8.

The Psalm began with a statement of the blessedness, the happiness, of the one whose sin had been forgiven, and it ends with a statement of the gladness, rejoicing and joy experienced by the "upright in heart," v11. Believers are declared righteous by God, having been saved, washed and cleansed by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. They know that "all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose," Rom.8.28. Each believer can say "goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever," Ps.23.6.

If we meditate on these things, we will know what it is to "Rejoice in the Lord alway," Phil.4.4, and to "Be glad in the Lord," v11.

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The Ascension of Jesus Christ

by Walter A. Boyd (N. Ireland)

PAPER 1

The resurrection and ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ are closely linked and should be viewed together, for the ascension was the necessary sequel and seal of Christ’s resurrection. These two great events which mark the termination of our Lord’s earthly sojourn form two stages of one great act of divine power, by which the Saviour was taken out of the domain of death and exalted to the throne of God.

Peter combines the two events when he says, "God, that raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory," 1Pet.1.21.

The ascension marked the end of all that the Saviour had come to do on the earth: to carry out the will of the Father, whatever the cost to Himself. On a number of occasions He spoke to the disciples privately about how He would die and rise again; but they did not grasp the significance of what He said. Later, in the upper room, He told them that He would be going back to the Father; and still they did not understand His sayings, Jn.14.3,28.

When at last the time for His ascension arrived, He led them out to Bethany and lifted up His hands and blessed them; and as He was blessing them, He was parted from them and carried up into heaven, Lk.24.50-51. How the inhabitants of heaven must have rejoiced at the triumphant return of the Son of God to His place in glory. This time heaven saw Him with a glorified body. He took His place upon the throne as the victorious Redeemer, having defeated all His foes and completed His Father’s will. Heaven echoed and resounded with praise and worship as they welcomed the crucified, risen, and glorified Son of God. It was a time of rejoicing and celebration by celestial beings whose home is heaven. The multitudes of saints already there must have found it a momentous occasion, in which they joined with heaven to worship the glorious Lord.

The ascension is described only by Mark and Luke (Mk.16; Lk.24 and Acts 1.9). The account given by Luke in his Gospel emphasises the separation that was involved, "He was parted from them." The disciples had been separated from their Lord by His descent into death, but were later reunited for forty days. Now they are to be separated by His departure to heaven. When He told them about going to the cross, Jn.13.33, it brought great sadness to them and cast a gloom over the upper room. They were unprepared for it: they did not understand it and protested to Him against it. However, when the Lord was parted from them at His ascension from Olivet, "they worshipped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy," Lk.24.52. Why the change in their attitude, to what might have been sad news? The answer lies in the resurrection ministry of the Risen Christ among His disciples that had prepared them for this moment. They now possessed a far greater portion than ever they had before. They knew that, even though He was going to heaven, they had the presence of the Saviour, for He had promised "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age," Mt.28.20. From the upper room discourse they also knew that they would have "another Comforter," for He had promised them the Holy Spirit. Their last sight of Him was with His hands uplifted in blessing — as if to impress upon them that, though now unseen, His hands are uplifted in heaven, blessing His own on earth. Right up until this present moment an unlimited and unfailing supply of blessing has flowed from those blessed hands. His disciples were denied His physical presence, but He was still with them in abiding spiritual fellowship.

We have thought about what the ascension meant to the disciples. What did it mean to the Lord? It meant at least three things — glorification, exaltation, and coronation. His glorification was the fulfilment of His prayer in Jn.17, "I have glorified Thee on the earth. I have finished the work which Thou gavest me to do. And now, O Father glorify Thou me with Thine own self with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was," Jn.17.5. Having glorified God on earth, He was glorified by God in heaven. At the Father’s right hand, this glory is displayed in His manhood.

Because of His self-humbling and obedience to cross-death, God has highly exalted Him and given Him a name which is above every name Phil.2.5-11. Step by step the Lord had made His descent until He reached the lowest point — death by crucifixion. Then came the Father’s glad response to it all as He exalted Him to the highest point of glory. Thus God indicated His satisfaction and joy. On earth, His disciples watched as He rose up into heaven. On arrival, the redeemed who were already there watched as heaven afforded Him the highest seat of honour!

The condescension and crucifixion of the Saviour before the eyes of sinful men were followed by His coronation before the eyes of His own. This is seen in Heb.2.9, "But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour." The crowning took place at the ascension. On that occasion it was the crown of reward, not the crown of royalty. In a day yet to come, diadems will adorn His brow. In the meantime, His triumph and victory are celebrated by the glory and honour bestowed upon Him by His Father, when He was granted to sit at His right hand. There He is glorified, exalted, and crowned.

The place which the Lord Jesus occupied as a result of His ascension is the place which He occupies still. It is called by Mark "the right hand of God" Mk.16.19. It is described in a four-fold way in the Epistle to the Hebrews: "the right hand of God," 10.12; "the right hand of the throne of God," 12.2; the right hand of the Majesty on high," 1.3; and "the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens," 8.1.

There are two great thoughts in these various designations. Firstly, He has been given the highest place of all. It is "far above all heavens," Eph.4.10, and "higher than the heavens," Heb.7.26. It is not possible for our minds to grasp just how high our blessed Lord has been exalted. We cannot think in terms of heavenly dimensions; but we can rest assured that there is no higher place in the entire universe than that which our Lord presently occupies. Secondly, He has been given a place at the right hand of God; which, in the context of the Hebrew Epistle, is the Holy of Holies. Having entered into the sanctuary and gone right within the Vail, He remains there as our Representative and great High Priest before the throne of God. His position induces the highest aspirations from the child of God: "Seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God," Col.3.1. Because of the exalted position of Christ, the right hand of God has become the focal point of the Christian’s desires. We are to be occupied with things in the realm of the Risen Christ. Things of earth should have little place in our lives, we should gravitate heaven-ward and Christ-ward. From the divine standpoint, we are already seated with Christ in the heavenlies, Eph. 2; and our association with Him in this way will lead us into the constant enjoyment of those eternal pleasures which are to be found at God’s right hand, Ps.16.11. —to be continued (DV)  

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Good Tidings from Heaven

A WONDERFUL RESCUE

On 25th April, 2006 there was a small earthquake in the Northern part of Tasmania. Two men working in a gold mine in the town of Beaconsfield were trapped in a small steel cage about one kilometre below the surface when rocks were dislodged by the tremor. A third miner was killed.

Rescuers who were digging their way towards the area had already found the body of one miner and had just about lost hope of finding the others alive. Then late on Sunday 1st May they heard the men talking and made contact with them. These two men had survived by licking the water that was trickling through the rocks around them.

After an immense amount of hard work, dedication and professional skill, on 9th May, 14 days after the rock fall, they were brought safely to the surface. This caused scenes of great joy and jubilation among families, friends, colleagues, the townsfolk of Beaconsfield and many across the world who never knew the men but appreciated the wondrous deliverance they had experienced.

It may surprise you to know that the author of this paper, together with millions of others, has experienced an even more wonderful deliverance. Let me tell you about it —

I, like you dear reader, was held in bondage in the dark, dank dungeon of sin. It was impossible for me to release myself nor could my friends assist me. Neither my good works, religion, penance nor the desires, hopes and aspirations of my friends and family could rescue me. I looked for an escape route but could find none. I was trapped by sin. My life was a hopeless mess.

However, there was One Person who had the ability to accomplish the work that I needed to be done and thus effect my rescue. He was Jesus Christ the Son of God. He came into this world to rescue mankind from the imprisonment of sins and the final imprisonment in the lake of fire for all eternity. Thus we read in the Bible, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved." John 3.16,17. Again in 1John 4.9, "In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him."

He only and exclusively had the ability to dispel our sins because He was sinless. He did the work that was required by going to the cross of Calvary and there He bore the judgment of our sins. He did the job completely, satisfied the holy throne of God and so cried, "It is finished," John 19.30. All that was needed was done because, "Christ died for our sins," 1Corinthians 15.3. "He was wounded for our transgressions," Isaiah 53.5. God said concerning the repentant sinner, "Deliver him from going down to the pit: I have found a ransom."

The miners would have been very foolish to tell the rescuers they did not want to be rescued and that they would prefer to die in the darkness of their underground prison. What is your reaction to the deliverance provided by the death of the Lord Jesus? The choice is as presented in Acts 28.24, "And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not." We would impress upon you to heed the words of Acts 16.31, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." This will mean that you will be among those who, "believe to the saving of the soul." Hebrews 10.39.

Such a result would cause joy in your heart as well as in heaven. Luke 15.7, "likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth …" v10, "there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.

 

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Quotes

 

THE PRINCE

. . . of Peace, Isa. 9.6;
. . . of princes, Dan.8.25;
. . . of life, Acts 3.15;
. . . of the kings of the earth, Rev.1.5.

by H. A. Barnes (England)


He is above all in His person, in His preaching and in His position.

— J. Douglas


THINGS TOWARD US

God commendeth His love toward us, Rom.5.8;
(Titus's) inward affection is more abundant toward you, 2Cor.7.15;
God is able to make all grace abound toward you, 2Cor.9.8;
We shall live with Him by the power of God toward you, 2Cor.13.4;
He hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence, Eph.1.8;
In the ages to come … His grace in His kindness toward us, Eph.2.7;
Increase and abound in love one toward another, 1Thess.3.12;
The love of God toward us, 1Jn.4.9.

by H. A. Barnes (England)


To understand the seriousness of sin, we must fathom three oceans:

The ocean of human suffering;
The ocean of the sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ;
The ocean of future suffering which awaits the impenitent soul.

—J. Douglas

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